Matthew Bourne’s 3D Swan Lake

Matthew BourneCurzon Cinemas are due to bring Matthew Bourne’s triumphant re-interpretation of Swan Lake (certificate PG) on May 14th, at the Soho showing theatre. The production is a pre-recorded version from a 2011 performance at Sadler’s Wells, and will continue to showcase the bare-footed swans to audiences nationwide and beyond.

When Swan Lake premiered in 1995, it turned the traditional production on its head and took the dance world by storm, with Bourne captivating audiences with his theatrical and contemporary-classical choreography. Bourne’s version of the well-known classic is arguably an equally well-known production, replacing the female cast and pointe shoes of dancers with an iconic yet menacing male ensemble, donning white feathers and bare torsos. Swan Lake was first filmed in 2D in 1996, becoming a world phenomenon and winning more than 30 top accolades in the major theatrical awards of Broadway, Los Angeles and the UK. The 3D film is expected to create an illusion of space around the dancers, drawing the audience in and bringing the dramatic realism of the story to life.

The cast includes Richard Windsor as the lead Swan/Stranger, Dominic North as The Prince, Nina Goldman as The Queen and Madelaine Brennan as The Girlfriend, emulating the drama and intensity of Bourne’s dark idealisations. Following the screening, both director and choreographer Bourne and executive producer Fiona Morris will deliver a post-screening discussion, bringing the dazzling displays of characters and their show tights even further to life.

The modern reinvention of Swan Lake does away with the pristine tutus of Odette/Odile and the Cygnets, replacing them with leather and character shoe clad characters who bask in the theatricality of Bourne’s work. The 3D version of the piece brings audiences the immediate experience of dance, many of whom may never see it on stage. Whilst some may argue that this notion may do away with the intrinsic aesthetic of dance, yet it is encouraging to note that the magic of dance is available for countless numbers, spreading its message and aiming to secure further recognition of the industry’s future.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Youth Dance England’s Young Creatives

Youth Dance England

May 4th marked the showcasing of the spectacular work born of the Youth Dance England Young Creatives at the Royal Opera House, demonstrating the sheer talent of young choreographers. 12 works were premiered in a variety of dance styles created by the participants selected to take part in the programme, delivered by Youth Dance England in partnership with the Royal Opera House and The Royal Ballet School.

Each year, YDE Young Creatives aims to support young choreographers aged 15-19 and their dance passions in order to improve their skills and understanding of choreography, and consequently create a dance piece. The programme included a Skill Boosting Weekend, which took place in January, where participants had the opportunity to improve their understanding of the choreographic process. A 3 month mentoring period followed this, where the young choreographers were each paired with professionals for their new creations, enabling them to gain an insight into the world of choreography and increase their knowledge of the sector. The penultimate experience was seen through a 4 day residential at The Royal Ballet School’s White Lodge, where the participants sported their dance practice-wear and took part in workshops, working closely with their peers and the experienced professionals to refine their pieces.

The Young Creatives’ journey culminated with their performance at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio Theatre, performed by their dancers and shown off to the audience, the dance genres hosting fantastic tap shoe, ballet shoe and leotard-clad talent. The performance was introduced by renowned choreographer Wayne McGregor, Artistic Director of Wayne McGregor|Random Dance and the Resident Choreographer of The Royal Ballet, the epitome of “choreography”. McGregor’s fusion of pointe shoes and his fluid, abstract contemporary dance represents an important strand of the Young Creatives ethos, famous nationwide for the refreshing creativity of its participants and the high standards of performances.

One wonders what the 2013 programme will bring!

Men’s Dancewear

Male Dancewear

Often male dancers feel hard done by, simply due to the fact there is considerably less choice of dancewear for men than there is for women. Whilst the general basics are covered by more or less each dancewear brand available to purchase from, females are met with huge varieties of leotards and cover-ups, for example, than men. Often, dance shoes are not gender specific, and male and female dancers wear the same brand and style of tap shoes, ballet shoes and jazz shoes. However, it seems there is an overriding imbalance of the ratio of female to men’s dancewear.

Despite this, at Dance Direct, a full range of boy’s and men’s dancewear items are very well stocked, offering designs from Plume, Sansha, Só Dança, Wear-Moi and Bloch, all at affordable prices. From dance trainers, unitards and men’s leotards, to men’s ballet tights, dance shorts and dance belts, there is a wealth of choice for male dancers to suit both professional and informal needs. This huge variety can conveniently be located online, providing even more access for dancers to a great selection of dancewear, suitable for many types of dance. Additionally, the emergence of “dance fashions” has also determined the styles of dancewear purchases, and the popularity of those deemed most versatile and useful at that time.

Dancewear for ballet has evolved considerably in recent years, for studio practice or on stage. For male dancers traditionally, their role on stage was to support the female dancer and help her heighten the illusion of performance quality. Whilst this remains, the spotlight for male dancers has extended, focusing more attention on them simultaneously. Dancewear such as unitards, or leotards and tights emphasise the body’s alignment, line and placement, defining the body for the audience and teacher alike. For males, dancewear can be adapted to suit either the studio or the stage, so despite the fact there may be less choice of dancewear for them than females, what males do wear is extremely versatile to suit a variety of needs.

The Youth America Grand Prix

Youth America Grand Prix The Youth America Grand Prix was formed in 2000 as a non-profit educational organization in order to support and develop world-class dancers from the ages 9 to 19, of all backgrounds and styles of leotards. YAGP aims to provide educational opportunities and scholarships to the world’s leading dance schools for young dancers as a global network of resources and opportunities which connect students, teachers, schools and dance companies.

YAGP has been known to provide students with top-quality education and training from the directors and faculties of some of the world’s foremost companies, such as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet and Paris Opera Ballet. As a result, YAGP refers to itself as the “internet of the dance world”, working to maintain and extend the dance network of the United States, and provide a multitude of prospects for the next generation of dancers, encouraging more to pull on their practice tights and engage with ballet.

Each year, YAGP conducts 12 regional semi-finals competitions throughout the US, and an additional 4 international competitions in Brazil, Mexico, France and Japan. Each season culminates in a week-long ‘New York City Finals’, where only around 500 of the 5000 hopefuls will compete for scholarships and professional job contracts offered. The dancers are renowned for representing 30 different countries on 5 continents, emphasising the sheer expanse of YAGP in the dance world, and just how prestigious the organisation has become since its inception.

First Position

First Position is a documentary film which focuses on seven young, international dance students preparing for the competition, working to showcase the exceptional talents of the dancers rather than focusing on the controversy of ballet competitions and the pressure they create for young people. Director Bess Kargman was inspired to create something that challenged the stereotypes of ballet and highlighted the sheer social and economic diversity of the industry. In choosing the candidates, Kargman felt it was imperative to feature students who would hold audiences’ attentions regardless of their performances throughout the competition, and – for example – the sacrifices made to facilitate ballet training such as parents making tutus and other costumes in order to save as much money as possible.

It is clear that the YAGP is one of the largest, most celebrated and influential dance competitions, presenting young dancers and their pointe shoes with the potential to truly succeed, with a fantastic opportunity in their first steps towards achieving their dance dreams.

Image courtesy of Youth America Grand Prix.

Ballet Preljocaj’s Snow White

Ballet Preljocaj's "Snow White" at Sadler's Wells

From May 10th until May 12th 2012, Angelin Preljocaj’s darkly adult take on the Brothers Grimm fairytale Snow White will be showing at Sadler’s Wells, showcasing spectacular costumes by fashion icon Jean Paul Gaultier and featuring the symphonic musical score by Gustav Mahler. As one of France’s most successful choreographers, Preljocaj is returning with his award-winning 2008 adaptation, performed as a contemporary ballet by the company of 25 dancers, miles away from the tutu-clad stereotype. Preljocaj’s physical choreography and Thierry Leproust’s dramatic sets transports the audience to a fairytale world of magic, drama and romance, remaining with the classic story but lacking the ballet shoes of a strictly classical company, sporting black unitards and extravagant head pieces.

Since the inception of Ballet Preljocaj in 1985, Preljocaj has created 45 choreographic works, ranging from solos to larger constructions. The company performs internationally and at home in France, where it is recognised as one of the country’s leading dance companies. Snow White has previously been a prize winner at the Globes de Cristal 2009, and in 1996 was welcomed at the Cité du Livre in Aix-en-Provence. Preljocaj’s creations have been restaged by numerous other repertory companies, from which he also receives requests to create new pieces, such as for La Scala in Milan and the New York City Ballet. The collaborations between Preljocaj and numerous other artists have also been notable, extending his influence far beyond his own company.

Beyond the repertory performances, Ballet Preljocaj has been multiplying its local actions in Aix-en-Provence and neighbouring communities in order to share its passion for dance with the broader public. Available are lectures on dance interpretation through video, public rehearsals, contemporary-dance classes and workshops, and dance interventions in urban public space in order to offer the chance to view and understand dance from different perspectives, expanding the company’s reach into the dance sector and beyond.

Image courtesy of Sadler’s Wells.

Big Dance 2012

Big Dance 2012Big Dance 2012 aims to be the UK’s biggest celebration of dance, led by the Greater London Authority, Arts Council England and Foundation for Community Dance.

The programme is part of the London 2012 Festival, which is the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad, championing dance throughout the country. Big Dance is delivered by a network of Big Dance Hubs, which are leading dance organisations around the UK, delivering dance to those areas. Whether it is ballet, modern dance, lindy hop, or bharata natyam, Big Dance is sure to provide it, regardless of the extent of your dance ability or dance clothing collection!

In previous years, Big Dance incorporated the Big World Dance, which aimed to encourage people from across London to take part in a mass participation performance that took their dancing shoes from the Southbank Centre to Trafalgar Square for a grand finale which was received by thousands of audience members. Luca Silvestrini of Protein Dance created five pieces of choreography inspired by the five continents which corresponded to an area of London, teaching these to people across the capital. Around 2,500 people registered to take part, with more participants turning up on the day to join workshops at the Southbank Centre, complete with live footage on huge screens.

The Big Dance Schools Pledge, led by Coopers Company and Coborn School, was also a great success. The project encouraged schools to don their dancewear and sign up to complete 20 minutes of extra dance a day to take part in a World Record attempt for the largest dance class in multiple venues. Hakeem Onibudo of Impact Dance created choreography on four different levels to music specially commissioned for the Schools Pledge, of which over 600 schools nationwide with 150,000 students signed up for the pledge. A half hour dance class was completed, culminating with a performance of the Level 1 choreography, emphasising the sheer impact of the power of dance, in bringing people together for one significant cause.

Darcey Bussell To Join Strictly Come Dancing

Darcey Bussell

Prima Ballerina Darcey Bussell CBE is due to join BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing judging panel when it returns in autumn 2012. Having seen her take off her tutu for the last time following her farewell performance from The Royal Ballet in 2007, she will leave her pointe shoes behind in the move to Strictly… swapping them possibly for New Yorkers! Darcey may be regarded as one of the most famous and accomplished ballerinas of Great Britain, performing as a guest artist with leading international ballet companies, such as the New York City Ballet, alongside her Royal career.

Strictly Darcey

Darcey has previously appeared as a guest judge on Strictly in 2009, during which she performed a jive with Strictly professional Ian Waite, demonstrating her inspirational capacity to engage with the wider dance and commercial sector aside from classical ballet. It can be supposed the Darcey’s influence on the judging panel will be one of great force and strength, capturing the nation’s hearts as she does so well, emphasising the virtuosic nature of dance and applying this to the lines of the Strictly characteristics. Her poise and glamour will add to an already sparkling aspect of the television dance scene, with Darcey continuing her central role in the development of quality dance and entertainment.

Dance On TV

The expanse of dance on television is overwhelming; it indicates that dance will continue to spread its influence in this way and gain more and more recognition in all sectors, encouraging more people to don their dance tights and snap up extravagant new leotards. Darcey has the experience and “qualifications” to do this, and constructively critique the participants in a meaningful and insightful way for audiences, in her charismatic and charming manner.

Darcey Bussell will be joining the panel to sit alongside head judge Len Goodman, Craig Revel Horwood and Bruno Tonioli, viewed as a fantastic addition to the Strictly team.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

International Dance Day 2012

International Dance Day 2012International Theatre Institute LogoInternational Dance Day was founded by the Dance Committee of the International Theatre Institute in 1982, and has been celebrated every year in Paris on April 29th, which is the anniversary of Jean-Georges Noverre (1727-1810) who is deemed as the creator of modern ballet. The dance sector is constantly evolving, with International dance Day seemingly drawing attention to the magic of dance, and highlighting this throughout the world.

Every year a message from an outstanding choreographer or dancer is circulated internationally, known as the “International Dance Day Message”, inspiring dancers and dance fans alike to re-love their dance, be it wearing their ballet tights, tap shoes or jazz leotard. The professional is selected by the International Dance Committee of the International Theatre Institute, which collaborates with the World Dance Alliance. The message aims to celebrate dance as a common language between all people across political, cultural and ethnic barriers in the universality of the art form, emphasising its accessibility. Among many others, prestigious dance figures such as Merce Cunningham, William Forsythe, Maurice Béjart, Akram Khan and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker have delivered the message and/or participated in the celebration of International Dance Day at UNESCO, Paris.
This year (the 30th anniversary of International Dance Day) the message was delivered from Paris by the Flemish/Moroccan choreographer and founder of the Antwerp based Eastman dance company, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. You can read the full message here: 2012 International Dance Day Message.

The International Dance Council, an umbrella organisation within UNESCO is also active in the support of dance and promotes Dance Day through the voice of its president Professor Alkris Raftis who also delivers a message himself every year. The Council considers that while dance has been an integral part of human culture throughout its history, it is under-prioritised by official establishments in the world, and the influence of dance should be shared throughout the world. Through the instatement of International Dance Day, it seems that the global message of dance can continue to be transmitted and enjoyed by everyone, encouraging them to grab their jazz trainers and engage with more people.

What will you be doing on Sunday?

Images courtesy of ITI.

West End Kids

West End Kids At The Albert Hall

As one of the UK’s most prestigious and highest profile musical theatre song and dance troupes, West End Kids has gone from strength to strength since its inception in 2001, and is now famous nationwide. Formed by Musical Director and specialist vocal coach Martin-Gwyn Williams, WEKs is based primarily on the American model of training young Broadway performers.

WEKs is renowned for providing exceptionally talented young and aspiring performers with the opportunity to advance their talents further, encouraging them to tighten their tap shoes and step confidently in front of the microphone. The WEKs – approximately 20 – are in high demand due to their unfaltering successes, handling an incredibly busy schedule of high profile events, performances and studio recordings. Just recently, WEKs performed at the Charles Dickens bicentenary dinner, providing a professional and slick spectacle, kicking up the heels of their character shoes! They have previously spread their influence at the London 2012 Olympic Games, West End Live, Move IT and Children In Need, amongst hundreds of other events.

Last year, the WEKs were seen and heard by over 1 million people, and through online technology such as Facebook and Twitter, they have a large following throughout the world. Be it leotards, show tights and New Yorkers, or jazz pants and jazz trainers, the WEKs work to tailor each performance to each individual client. Additionally, the WEKs have recorded and released numerous studio recordings, with the most recent being a new arrangement of Aint No Mountain High Enough which is available on iTunes. In 2011 the world-class WEKs performed for British Prime Minister David Cameron at the Commonwealth State Banquet after being selected as the UKs brightest star within youth music theatre; 2012 looks as though it is set to be another year of success and performance for the WEKs!

For further information visit www.westendkids.co.uk.

Image courtesy of West End Kids.

International Dance Festival Birmingham

International Dance Festival Birmingham 2012

The International Dance Festival Birmingham is due to run from April 23rd until May 19th, bringing an outstanding line-up of hit shows to the Midlands, such as Sylvie Guillem and Russell Maliphant’s Push, combining elements of ballet, contemporary, capoeira, t’ai chi and yoga; a solo for Louise LeCavalier named Children & A Few Minutes Of Lock created by Nigel Charnock; and the premiere of new work The Impending Storm, featuring dance virtuoso David Toole.

The month-long dance programme is now in its third edition as a major biennial festival produced by DanceXchange and Birmingham Hippodrome, programmed across theatres, streets and public places, creating a wealth of participatory activity for people of all ages by animating the city of Birmingham and the West Midlands, encouraging them to pull on their dancewear and get involved.

The IDFB is one of the largest dance festivals in the world, and is unique in its diversity and internationalism through its programming of exceptional dance from across the globe, and hosting collaborations with international choreographers and artists. The IDFB is set to include additionally engaging features such as the pointe shoes of The Royal Ballet of Flanders (performing Artifact), a screening of the jazz shoe classic West Side Story and the exotic Danza Contemporanea de Cuba from Dance Consortium. Added to the mix is the transferral of urban hoodie-wearing Breakin’ Convention from London to the Midlands, the international festival of hip-hop dance theatre within the IDFB.

Sylvie Guillem & Russell Maliphant in Push

The IDFB aims to bring an outstanding quality of work and worldwide attention to the numerous arts organisations and venues in the Midlands and the incredible dance scene which resides there through many partnerships and collaborations. Building on the successes of previous years, the IDFB 2012 aims to be even more distinctive than before, attracting more visitors from across the UK and beyond, consequently benefitting the local economy. With a strong international focus, the IDFB will celebrate artistic excellence, promote artistic exchange and express the youthful, diverse and energetic spirit of dance in the Midlands.

IDFB 2012 image courtesy of IFDB. Sylvie Guillem & Russell Maliphant image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.